How good is your health journalism? by Ali and Julia

As we have discussed in previous posts, health journalism isn’t always as diverse and accurate as it could be. While measuring quality in journalism is a difficult task, Ali and I wanted to create a tool that could allow journalists to see where there may be space for improvement or missed opportunities in their health coverage.

So we propose a tool that would allow journalists to compare the proportion of  coverage at the top 25 media outlets in the world on a given health subject to 1) the proportion of related research spending in a given year 2) and the relative health impact of that subject on the population.

For example, on our website, a user would select:
1) a news source, such as the New York Times;
2) a health subject, such as “diabetes;”

Then the website we build will spit out a visualization (probably a bubble chart) of how much coverage the disease garnered at that media source compared to how much money was invested in diabetes-related research globally and how much that health issue impacts quality of life compared to other factors. We could also rate the robustness of a news outlet’s coverage (ie, We could give a poor grade to a source that is severely under-covering an important health issue or subject for which there is a lot of research output).

Ali has access to a database of media stories from the world’s top 25 outlets and we will do key word searches in each source to find out how often the top disease burden factors are mentioned.

To measure health impact, we are using global data from the Institute of Health Metrics and Evaluation (IHME) about the relative impact on DALYs or disability-adjusted life years. This “is a measure of overall disease burden, expressed as the number of years lost due to ill-health, disability or early death” which gives a sense of which diseases or exposures lead to the most deaths” and DALYs include everything from obesity to cancer and pollution.

For the data on health-research investment, we are using global data from IHME, as well.

The data will be visualized in bubbles that allow users to easily see where there are gaps between coverage, research spending, and public-health impact. The user will get a sense of whether the health coverage at a given paper is actually representing related research and disease burden.

We hope that journalists and editors who cover health could use this tool to find missed opportunities and ideas for how to expand their work.